On Saturday we took a trip up the East Bank to see the new Massy supermarket. That’s right. We went on a sight seeing trip to view a supermarket. What can I say? That’s what it’s come to. I remember when I first got here I was puzzled by the concept of the Business Expo. How did people allow an expo largely featuring construction and furniture companies and gated communities to be billed as entertainment? Now, I’m making plans with my friend Friday night to go ogle Guyana’s biggest supermarket on a Saturday afternoon. Such is life in Guyana.
And we weren’t the only ones. When we got there, the relatively large parking lot only had a few empty spots left. There were lots of people milling inside and you could just tell that many of them, like us, did not live in the area and were not there to buy any sort of necessities. They were there to see Guyana’s latest attraction.
It is an interesting contrast to my experience the day before heading to my polling station to vote for the very first time in local government elections. There was no one ahead of me in line. One other person had just finished voting when I went up to have my name found on the list. I asked the agents if a lot of people had been in earlier and was told no. I asked if anyone had come at 6, when polls opened, the reply was “Three”. Well then.
Apparently this was the case country wide. There was a 38 – 39% turn out rate. Quite sad but, sadder still, unsurprising. A lot of Facebook “friends” declared they weren’t voting for not obscure reasons, namely: 1) they didn’t know the candidates; 2) they were dissatisfied with the candidates; 3) there was very little voter education/preparation for the population that had either forgotten or never knew what to expect in a local government election or 4) all of the above. I have to admit that I agreed with all of those points. I still voted though. Firstly, I’m just a voter. If I can vote, I will as I had mentioned when I first got here. In general, I don’t take suffrage lightly, especially being a brown woman. I think Guyana has had a long enough history of people like me being disenfranchised and I know that women in some parts of the world still suffer from denial of this basic human right. Secondly, I think that a lot of people fought very hard to effect administrative change in part to bring back local government elections. I whole heartedly support this even if it’s rough goings the first time round.
So, I voted. And I completely disagree with people who say that people like me have no reason to complain if the people we vote for do horribly. I think that’s pretty flawed logic. It would be like saying if I choose to live in Guyana, I shouldn’t complain about lateness or corruption or the heat or LITTERING. That’s just silly. There are downsides and upsides to all the choices we make. When you choose the lesser of two evils, you are going to have complaints to make because the nature of evil, whether lesser or not, is that, for the non-evil people, it’s unacceptable on some level or the other. And I think that the people who don’t vote don’t have some advantage over the voters vis a vis rights to complain because they affect election outcomes as well. Maybe if more people voted for X instead of abstaining, Y wouldn’t have won. So, I don’t think they get a pass on responsibility here. Especially since there’s more to do besides vote. Voting is sort of the baseline of what you can do in a democracy. You could also run or support someone you respect and admire to run. Especially if you so dislike your options that you wouldn’t choose any of them. I think greater responsibility lies on those people actually. Still, it was very disappointing to only see two candidates and two parties on my ballot. I had been hoping to vote for the Independent (any Independent!).
Back to the supermarket.
I think the most impressive thing about it was the amount of choice under one roof. If you shop in supermarkets (which are always, always more expensive than the markets) then you have to be prepared to either go to multiple ones or forgo some things on your list. So, in that respect, this new one gets points for that. However, if you’re hoping to see new/different products, you’re going to have to be satisfied with the bakery, the meat section, over the counter drugs and very Walmart/green looking Pharmacy, severely overpriced lettuce (2000-2500 a bag!) and, curiously, paper towels (I kid you not). Otherwise, it’s the usual imported goods at ridiculous prices. At some point, we’re going to have to start producing some of these things ourselves!
Otherwise, things are pretty much the same as anywhere else. The cashier was very nice though. She asked me if I found everything I was looking for which was new. However, the card machine reader (one at each cashier) wasn’t working so… same old, same old.
In line, I heard the woman behind me mutter something about “all the people who don’t live on the East Bank”, wishing we would just “go home”. I turned around and it turned out to be someone I knew. She looked sheepish about it and apologised but I thought it was funny. Sort of the way New Yorkers are exasperated with tourists who drag their feet while locals are busy trying to Get Stuff Done. It must have been really annoying for someone who just wanted to get a few items in peace and go home. I bet she ran into a lot of people just idly strolling through the aisles with all the time in the world… (we did that).
Verdict: I’d only go back if I were in the area and really needed something. East Bankers can keep their supermarket and good for them! Also, I clearly need to get out of town and do some real sightseeing.
Election outcome: according to preliminary results, the Coalition has swept up the majority of seats. Of course, this being Guyana, both sides are claiming victory. One of the polling agents in my station was a hijabi from my gym. This evening after zumba I caught her on the way out and asked who won in my area. She replied, “We won by two seats” and I had to clarify if by “we” she meant PPP (she did).
For general elections, my polling station was a local furniture store. Maybe next local government elections, they can ask Massy to make their supermarket a polling station – that might draw a bigger crowd…